WOMEN'S HEALTHWATCH

Published Online: Friday, June 1, 2007

Women Too Tired to Party, Poll Finds
A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that more than half of American women are not getting enough sleep?which prevents them from eating healthily, spending time with friends, or having sex. Almost 70% of respondents said they have a frequent sleeping problem, mostly caused by stress or anxiety, and 60% claim they get a good night?s sleep only a few nights during the week. The group of women hardest hit by this phenomenon were stay-at-home mothers, with 74% experiencing insomnia at least a few nights a week, and 59% saying they woke up feeling less than fully rested. Insomnia was claimed by 72% of working mothers and 68% of single working women without children.

The NSF queried 1003 women between the ages of 18 and 64 years for the poll. They found that, when women are pressed for time, half of them will sacrifice either sleep (52%) or exercise (48%).

When they were tired or ran out of time, however, 39% also cut back on time spent with friends and family, 37% stopped eating healthily, and 33% stopped having sex with their partner. Only 20% of respondents said they would opt out of work if pressed for time or energy.

Cutting Caffeine Has No Effect on Birth Weight
A Danish study has found that a mother?s reduction of caffeine consumption during pregnancy has no significant effect on the baby?s birth weight. Past research had suggested that consuming less caffeine could raise average birth weight, but this study shows no effect on either the baby?s birth weight or the length of the pregnancy when caffeine levels were altered. The findings were reported in the February 24, 2007, issue of the British Medical Journal.

The researchers studied 1207 pregnant women at 20 weeks? gestation or less who reported drinking at least 3 cups of regular coffee per day. About half of the women were randomly assigned to drink regular caffeinated coffee, while the remaining women were instructed to drink only decaffeinated coffee for the rest of their pregnancies, with no other changes in their regular consumption of tea, soda, or other caffeinated beverages.

After adjusting for prepregnancy weight, smoking status, and other variables, the difference in the birth weight of babies in the decaffeinated coffee group was statistically insignificant, compared with that of the babies in the regular coffee group. Because the control group did consume some caffeine, however, the researchers admit that this study does not show that caffeine is harmless, but only that reducing caffeine consumption shows no noticeable benefit.

Walking Holds Multiple Benefits for Women
Several studies have been released with evidence that regular walking can benefit women at various ages and stages of life. One such study from Harvard Medical School (Boston, Mass) looked at women who took part in the Nurses? Health Study. The researchers found that the more active the women were as they got older, the less likely they were to develop incontinence, with the most active women being 15% to 20% less likely to report urine leaks than less active women; those who walked regularly reported a 26% lower risk.

Another study from Pennsylvania State University showed that women who are going through menopause experienced less severe symptoms if they walked or took yoga on a regular basis.

A third study, also from Harvard Medical School, found that new mothers who took regular walks tended to lose their ?baby weight? more easily than those who did not. The study followed 902 women for a year and found that those who walked, limited television watching, and shunned trans fats were more likely to return to prepregnancy weight more quickly.

Dental X-rays Can Predict Bone Loss in Women
A team of researchers in Europe said they have developed a computer software program that analyzes bone information found in ordinary dental x-rays that could point to bone troubles elsewhere in the body. They hope that the software can prove useful in identifying women at risk for osteoporosis. The research was presented at the International Association for Dental Research annual meeting in New Orleans, La, and published in the April 2007 issue of Bone.

The technique uses novel computer software developed by the Imaging Science and Biomedical Engineering Division of Manchester University in England. Standard wide-scale screening is costly and difficult to implement, according to researchers. Their approach uses the software to analyze bone-pattern characteristics in routine dental x-rays. In a study of 651 women who underwent both conventional bone mass density measurements of the femur, hip, and spine and evaluation of dental x-rays, it was shown that examination of the x-rays was able to predict the risk of osteoporosis to the same degree as traditional methods.



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